Alafia West African Cuisine: More Than Just Authentic Flavors

December 3, 2022

After my math test on a Wednesday evening at around 4 pm, I was stressed out and happy it was all over taking into consideration the fact that I missed a lot of good night’s sleep preparing for this Math test. After the test, I was happy with my performance and decided to give myself a treat. What would be the perfect food to appeal to my stomach right now?…… Yes, I got it, a delicious Nigerian Egusi soup with pounded yam (Yes… I deserve that #Foodie), and where would be the perfect restaurant here in Tucson to fulfill my appetite? Got it!! Alafia West African Cuisine, Beninese Restaurant. Here I come!!  As a Nigerian, I love my native food and I love it prepared perfectly with the right spices and vegetables, I believe that Alafia West African Cuisine would be the right restaurant to fulfill this. I was previously at this restaurant with my friends Kate and Robyn, they introduced me to the restaurant, and was a tasty experience.

Shortly, I walked into the restaurant with my friend Divine-favour, she hasn’t had any African delicacies here in Tucson, so we thought it was a great idea to treat ourselves. Entering the restaurant, the waitress met and greeted us with a smile, I was distracted by the beautiful African artifacts, (the lady bronze portrait; it looks more like the Nigerian Benin portraits, the wooden sculptures of African women with pots on their heads and the masquerade wooden sculpture), I pictured myself wearing the dashiki and kente clothes that were displayed at the restaurant, the wall paintings and beads were just magnificent as I imagined some “Atilogwu” dancers (native dance from the Igbo tribe of Nigeria) wearing the beads on their waist while it giggles to the tune of their dance.,

One thing that stands out about Alafia Restaurant was the African setting, the tables and chairs were set to give the typical African restaurant; the tables and chairs are mostly wooden and set by 4 chairs a table with plastic linen of the table. The African greeting in an African language (Yoruba, a west African language spoken by Nigerian, Benin Republic, Sierra Leone, and Togo), saying it without being considered as vernacular, the warmness and the wooden-like scent of the place, the exquisite and homemade taste of the food coupled with the open-kitchen pattern of cooking made it feel as though I was home.

As we sat down, the waitress came back with two glasses of water, and two sheets of the menu, “You’re welcome to Alafia West African Restaurant, I’m Akuele” she said as she handed us the menu. Of course, I wanted to chat with her more because I was intrigued by the antiques, painting, beads, and some food on the menu some of the food were new to me and I have never tried or heard about them but my friend was hungry and excited to have a cultural meal, so she ordered Jollof rice with grilled tilapia fish. However, I was still amazed at some artifacts, beads, clothes, and the African settings,

Of course, I had some questions to ask, and curiosity was at its peak (don’t judge me ok). Abraham was also a waiter at the restaurant and was willing to give me a little tour around the restaurant. Apparently, most of the artifacts are from the Benin Republic in west Africa, I also found out that the owner (Mr. Lawani) of this amazing restaurant is from the Benin Republic. Also, I was attracted to the wall painting of an African woman, with a basket on her head and some beads on her neck and she appears to be standing akimbo on the safari, Mrs. Lawani the manager of the restaurant, which she operated alongside her husband Mr. Ismael Lawani further explained that the mural that is painted on the wall was painted by her friend who is an artist and has been participating in the African Art village at the Tucson Gem and Mineral show, she further explained that the masks and sculptures has been collected over the years from Benin ( a west African country) as well as various artists from the African art village.

That said, I have satisfied my curiosity and was really excited to finally get down to the business of the day and the main reason I’m here. Can you guess what the business of the day is?…… (drumroll) food!

“There you go sir,” says the elegant waitress as she hands me the menu. I was indecisive because there are meals on the menu that I haven’t tried before as the menu comprises different West African dishes like Attieke, Goat light soup, Tchep Djen, etc., and an African locally produced drink which is my favorite ‘Bisap’ I honestly wanted to try everything on the menu, but my wallet told me to be smart as we can’t afford it. I decided to get some recommendations from Mrs. Lawani, she said that her favorite dishes were Goat soup and Attieke, she as recommended Egusi soup with fufu, Tchep Djen and Kedjenou with rice as there were the most popular dishes and customers patronized them more.

Now I’m on a hot seat as one playing the “Who wants to be a millionaire” game because I have a big decision to make, I don’t know what exactly I want to eat as I would love to try everything on the menu. After some minutes of arguments and deliberations with my stomach and wallet, I decided to listen to my wallet.

I ordered (trumpets, please) Egusi soup with fufu which is my favorite Nigerian collabo. Egusi soup is made with white melon seed and fufu is made with cassava, growing up in Nigerian, this particular meal was my favorite collaboration, I can eat the food for months without switching meals or getting tired of eating, and my mom used to tease me about it, she would say that a white melon seed would germinate and start growing in my stomach, as I child I get really scared when she says that because I don’t want any seed at all germinating in my stomach but that wouldn’t stop me from eating this mouth-watering collabo.

As the chef went to work, my attention was drawn to the aroma of the magic going on in the kitchen as it was an open-roof kitchen, I couldn’t help myself, so I decided to get a lemon Fanta to keep my mouth busy while we wait for the business of the day to get ready. Few minutes later, the food was ready, I could feel my stomach rumble in joy, making sweet sounds of happiness as the waitress served the dishes, so I didn’t waste any more time and started eating.

I picked up some of the pounded yam, molded it in the shape of a ball and to the size that could gently go down my throat, and dipped it in the flavorsome Egusi soup, I made sure to scoop some particles of fish and meat at the same time, and then swallowed it. The mouthwatering nutty flavor of the melon seeds, the salty and distinctive flavor of the fish, the umami flavor of the meat, the earthy flavor of the veggies, and the rich blend of spices used to make this dish, it was delicate, and my appetite was satisfied. We ordered some plantain (‘Wele’ as it is called in the Hausa Language).

Overall, it was an awesome experience. Alafia West African Cuisine is located at 1070 N. Swan Rd, Tucson, Arizona. The service and food at Alafia Restaurant were amazing and worth every penny spent even though it is not a particularly posh establishment. Alafia Restaurant blended excellent food with affordable rates, prompt service with appetizing presented dishes, cozy settings, and a well-known brand. The cuisine was prepared from scratch and is completely fresh; the chicken, fish, and other meats are hormone-free and all-natural. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give them a 9 out of 10. I heartily endorse this restaurant as a place where you may unwind and enjoy a delectable African meal.


Nwodo Chikamso, an undergraduate student in the University of Arizona, is majoring in Management Information System